COVID-19: SARS Tax Filing Season 2020

By Jane Lotter CA(SA)

In the interests of supporting Social Distancing, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has introduced changes to the tax filing process for the 2020 tax year.  Although these changes are designed to simplify processes, some of the systems are being implemented for the first time and taxpayers will need to carefully monitor the assessment results received from SARS.

Filing Dates 2020


The dates for online filing of returns are as follows:

Non provisional taxpayers          1 September 2020 – 16 November 2020
Provisional taxpayers                   1 September 2020 – 31 January 2021

Taxpayers who cannot file electronically must file returns at SARS branches between 1 September and 22 October 2020, but by appointment only.

Corporate Taxpayers

Corporate taxpayers must submit their returns within 12 months of the tax year-end of the company.  Returns must be submitted using the SARS eFiling platform.

Auto assessments

A major new development is that in August 2020 SARS will be introducing auto-assessments to selected individual taxpayers. This has been introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing in order to restrict the queues at SARS branches.

Selected taxpayers will receive an SMS if they have been selected for auto-assessment. What this means is that SARS has completed their tax returns based on 3rd party information, including IRP5s for employment income, medical aid contributions and interest received.  Based on this information an assessment will be auto-generated.   Taxpayers will need to respond on eFiling, indicating whether or not they agree with the assessment.

As this is the first time that the new auto assessment process will be used, there are likely to be a number of teething issues.   We would advise taxpayers to verify the assessment result before accepting the auto-assessment.  Risks areas include:

  • SARS may not have received all of your tax certificates, or tax certificates may not have correctly synchronised.
  • Income from other sources, such as distributions from Trusts, would not be known to SARS and therefore may be omitted.
  • Taxpayers may miss claiming valid deductions for, example, donations to section 18A registered charities, business travel and additional medical expenses. 

If taxpayers do not accept the auto-assessment result, the return may be edited and resubmitted once the filing season opens on the 1 September.

Clients who receive an auto-assessment SMS are requested to please notify us as soon as possible.  We will then assist you in verifying the assessment results and advising if further action is required.

Client tax returns

Despite the tax season opening later than normal, we request that our taxpayer clients submit their information to us by 1 August 2020.  This will enable us to manage the smooth flow of work so that we can anticipate top-up payments that may be due by 30 September 2020 and meet submission deadlines.  We will communicate directly with clients with more specific documentation requirements.

Jane Lotter CA(SA)
Email: | Telephone: +27 31 7613400 |

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